What we learned in the NHL over the last week of play:
Kings at a crossroads
The Kings can’t let their romp over league-worst Arizona on Saturday fool them into thinking all is well. They’ll probably have to finish among the top three teams in the Pacific division in order to make the playoffs because teams in the stacked Central division are likely to grab the two West wild-card spots. The Kings seem to carom from one extreme to the other, sandwiching shutouts of Dallas and Arizona around a weak effort in a shutout loss at Nashville. Rob Blake’s best move since becoming general manager was signing goaltender Darcy Kuemper, who has provided excellent backup to an off-his-game Jonathan Quick. Blake has until the Feb. 26 trade deadline to make an impact move that will get the Kings back into postseason play.
Healthy Predators will be dangerous
Forward Filip Forsberg made an impact in his return from an injury last Thursday when he scored a goal in Nashville’s 5-0 thrashing of the Kings. A day earlier, Mike Fisher ended his retirement and signed a professional tryout contract; his plan is to sign a contract for the rest of this season before the trade deadline. In regaining Fisher, the Predators, who were riding an 8-1-1 surge before they faced the New York Islanders on Monday, get a proven leader who was crucial to their run to the Stanley Cup Final last spring. There could be more June hockey in Smashville.
Jets are set
Major injuries have taken key players out of the Winnipeg Jets’ lineup for long chunks of time, but they’ve managed to stay atop the formidable Central division. They’ve withstood losing No. 1 center Mark Scheifele, third-line center Adam Lowry and defensemen Toby Enstrom and Dustin Byfuglien, but they took another hit last week when defenseman Jacob Trouba suffered a lower-body injury that’s expected to keep him out for six to eight weeks. Trouba, 23, had become a mainstay. But the Jets kept rolling last Saturday, with Connor Hellebuyck making 25 saves to earn his fifth shutout of the season in a 3-0 victory over Colorado. “The team is playing really well in front of me,” he told NHL.com. “They’re bringing it every night and you can tell.”
New owner, same old results for ’Canes
The Carolina Hurricanes are less than the sum of their parts, collecting good young talent — Sebastian Aho, Jaccob Slavin, Teuvo Teravainen, and Noah Hanifin — but never putting together complete teams. Since their 2006 Stanley Cup title, they’ve made the playoffs once and have missed out the last eight seasons. This will be the ninth, giving new owner Thomas Dundon time to develop a case of buyer’s remorse or to change the club’s operations. Coach Bill Peters’ frustration boiled over on Sunday after a 3-1 home loss to San Jose. “We can’t put that group out again after that. It’s unacceptable,” he told the Raleigh (N.C.) News & Observer. “They let each other down, too, in the room. There were some guys who were very light on the puck. Very light.” That’s the ultimate insult a coach can deliver.